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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Clay Owen, A True Southern Gentleman

Clay Owen was an accomplished photojournalist who worked at the Knoxville News-Sentinel for the past 17 years, a truly rare commitment for someone so talented in an industry that rewards those who leave far more often than it does those who stay put.

To those lucky enough to have known him at any point in his life, Clay Owen was an upbeat, generous, and truly kind human being. A southern gentleman of the highest caliber.

Clay died at home unexpectedly Tuesday of an apparent heart attack. He was 47.

I had the pleasure of working with Clay and his wife Jackie while we were all student journalists at UK in the 1980s.

He will be greatly missed.

As far as Clay's history in Los Angeles goes ... He won a coveted summer internship at the Los Angeles Times in 1987, along with fellow photojournalist Alan Lessig, and sportswriter Todd Jones, all of whom were University of Kentucky students at the time.

A blog has been set up by a friend of Clay's in the hope that friends will post memories of him there. It's at FriendsOfClayOwen.blogspot.com.

From the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
In more than 17 years at the News Sentinel, Mr. Owen's work was honored in numerous professional competitions. Last fall, his photograph of an Army National Guard helicopter pilot greeting a young pen pal won a regional award from the National Press Photographers Association.

His talents provided readers with images ranging from feature stories (such as last week's Knox County Spelling Bee) to project work (last year's look at hunger in East Tennessee and an upcoming examination of efforts to relieve homelessness) to artistically executed images for our Food & Home pages.

Mr. Owen also was the regular partner of now-retired senior writer Fred Brown in the Appalachian Journal series, in which they roamed East Tennessee to bring readers a peek into life off the beaten path.

"It was Clay Owen's kind smile and gentle way that was the key to our success," Brown wrote in a tribute for knoxnews.com.

Projects editor John North was perhaps the last colleague to consult with Mr. Owen, reviewing his photographs for the homelessness series Tuesday evening.
Also, NPPA has an article up on its Web site.

Clay also had a Facebook page, though you must be a member to view it. Not sure if it can be viewed by those outside his network, or outside his approved friends list.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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